I Was Looking for You
When he opened his eyes, they fell immediately on the man sitting quietly in his desk chair.
Closing his eyes again, he muttered, "I thought I'd taken away all the copies you made of my housekey?"
"You missed one," the other one replied amused.
"I'll just have to find that one as well then."
"You can try," he said easily. "But I can just let extras be made again and again."
"You're incredibly annoying and beyond rude, do you know that?"
"You've pointed it out once or twice before, yes."
When his brother didn't make any move to stand up and leave his room, he growled in frustration and sat up, running fingers through his hair. "What the hell are you doing here, Itachi?"
"It's the first of May."
"I'm aware of that. I do own a calendar," Sasuke snarked, scowling at him. "What of it?"
"I thought you might want to try again this year."
"You thought wrong," Sasuke said darkly and turned away, staring at the wall.
Itachi sighed softly. "Why don't you give it one more chance? Maybe this year will be different."
"Yes, like every other year before would have been different, right?" Sasuke said bitterly. He didn't look up when a weight indented his mattress.
"I know the years before were horrible, but you don't go out throughout the year either," Itachi murmured, his hand coming down to rest on Sasuke's right leg; the weight of it warm and heavy. "You can't keep holing yourself up in your house forever, otouto. Everyone needs someone."
"I've got our parents and you, though I'm not very inclined to like you right now," Sasuke pointed out, pursing his lips.
"You know what I mean," Itachi said calmly and squeezed his leg. "Keeping yourself sequestered away isn't healthy and you know it. Look, why don't you give this one more shot? One more chance and if this year isn't successful, I won't mention it again."
"No, you'll just have other people pestering me then," Sasuke sneered, tensing up.
The older Alpha raised his hands in the air. "You have my word that neither I nor anyone else will pester you about it again after this year. We just want you to give it one more chance. You're too young to spend the rest of your life alone."
"You're just going to keep nagging until I agree, right?" Sasuke said sourly, glowering.
"Nagging or looking out for my little brother – whichever one you prefer," Itachi said dryly, before he grew solemn again. "Just one more year, okay? And then we'll leave this subject matter closed."
Sasuke thought about it, about spending the week in that place again, listening to people running around. Hearing them rush past him, never stopping at his spot and if they did, running away just as quickly again once they got a good look at him.
He thought of the frustration he doubtlessly would feel; the humiliation and anger. Feelings which had accompanied him the past couple of times he'd attended the event.
It was a waste of time, time that could be better spent perfecting his paper which was due in two weeks. He already knew the outcome of the event and he wasn't in the mood for it.
Yet if his participation this year finally would make his family shut up about it and would make them stop pestering him about his single status, he might as well put himself through it again.
One tortuously slow and humiliating week for a lifetime of peace and quiet – that was the best offer he was going to get probably.
He looked up at Itachi, who was watching him expectantly, and heaved a sigh. "Fine, I'll do it," he gave in resigned.
Itachi smiled warmly at him and tapped his knee. "Thank you for giving this another try."
Sasuke snorted and swung his legs from underneath the blanket, forcing the other man to get up. Right, like he had any choice about this.
The whispers started the moment he approached the registration stand, accompanied by his brother and his brother-in-law. The stares and finger pointing quickly followed as people gaped at him before hurriedly turning away when either Itachi or Deidara looked at them.
Sasuke didn't even bother staring them down anymore; they were going to look no matter how he reacted.
"They all apparently missed the rule that it's rude to stare at someone, un," Deidara remarked distastefully, scowling at a brunette who was openly gawking at Sasuke.
She squeaked and instantly turned red, hurrying away.
"You see now why I don't want to do this?" Sasuke questioned grouchily, accepting the pen the middle aged man behind the stand gave him.
Distastefully he stared down at the form, the questions on it painfully familiar to him still even if it had been two years since he last participated.
Name: Uchiha Sasuke
Occupation: Student psychology
First time participant? No
If not, how many times have you participated before? 4 times
Any reason in particular why the previous attempts were less successful?
He didn't even bother filling in the last question and simply pushed his form and the pen back to the man without another word, accepting the badge he was given after his form was checked. Snatching his bag off the ground, he marched away from the stand; his skin prickling underneath the weight of the dozens of stares.
"You've got enough food in there to last you a week? For two?" Itachi asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, yeah, though it's just going to be a waste of money as always," Sasuke muttered, heaving the large bag onto his shoulder.
"You never know, un. This year might be your year," Deidara smiled encouragingly, before baring his teeth at a guy who was gaping at the younger man.
"That damn optimism of yours has always annoyed the fuck out of me," Sasuke said darkly; the edge of his badge cutting into his palm when he tightened his hand around it.
"Sasuke, there's no reason to be so rude to him," Itachi said warningly; his eyes flashing as he gripped Deidara's hand. "He's not the one you should be pissed with."
"It's fine, Itachi," Deidara reassured him before patting Sasuke's shoulder, offering him a tentative smile. "I know you don't want to do this, un, but try to make the best of it, okay?"
"Don't have much of a choice now, do I?" Sasuke sighed, stretching the fingers of his left hand.
They walked with him to the edge of the forest where a couple of men in uniform were checking the badges, sending those away who weren't allowed to be here yet.
"I'll see you in a week," Itachi murmured, stepping forwards to hug him.
"Dinner's on you for three whole months," Sasuke muttered, hugging him back.
Itachi chuckled and stepped away. "Of course it is."
"Good luck, Sasuke-kun," Deidara smiled. "Don't mind the others, un. They're idiots."
Idiots with eyes, he thought, but nodded and showed the nearest guard his badge.
The man looked at it before glancing at his face. He grimaced before jerking his thumb backwards over his shoulder, indicating he could go through.
Bracing himself for a full week spent alone in the woods, Sasuke stepped forwards and started walking, leaving his family behind at the line.
He didn't even bother trying to seek out a more advantageous spot. The moment he set foot into the woods, he made the trek to the place he'd spent the previous four times at: a cave half overgrown with branches from the thin, tall trees standing guard on either side of it. It was rather secluded, more towards the back of the woods, but with a small river running alongside of it, it still attracted people. They just never stayed long the moment they got a look at Sasuke.
He arrived at the cave after an hour long walk and he paused a few feet away from it, staring at it dismayed. Sighing loudly, he looked around, checking his surroundings and found that barely anything had changed the last time he'd been here. One of the trees had been knocked down – probably due to a storm – and there was moss growing on the dead trunk, together with some type of mushrooms. Some of the branches covering the cave had grown so long, they now swept across the forest floor, following the rhythm of the wind.
Pursing his lips together, he diminished the remaining distance between him and the cave in a couple of steps and pushed some tree branches out of the way, bending his head slightly to step into the cave. A squirrel startled at his presence and scurried past him, disappearing into one of the bushes outside.
Disinterested he looked around, taking note of some twigs and dead leaves scattered across the ground; remains of an animal's nest, probably. It didn't appear like the walls or the ceiling were above to break down any time soon, so at least he would be dry and safe in case of any bouts of rain.
As he set about pumping up his mattress, he wondered once more why the hell this stupid tradition hadn't been completely abolished yet. People considered it to be a cute alternative way to the modern dating scene, a way to return back to a time where people used to let their senses guide them towards the person with whom they shared a great romantic potential. They conveniently forgot that this tradition came into existence in the first place because at some point in their history the birth rate had been so low, the government had feared a population decline. This tradition – or festival as it had been at the start – had been set up to ensure that more people would find a partner and ideally have children with them, increasing the population once more.
The set up had worked and after a century the tradition had slowly died out before being brought back to life again around thirty years ago when people were looking for an alternative to the regular dating methods. Most people thought this tradition was cute and amazing.
Sasuke thought it was nothing but an abomination and a big pain in his arse. He didn't consider it cute to be stuck in the woods for an entire week, waiting for someone to approach him and try to find out whether they would be a good fit together. Perhaps he would have thought differently before the incident, but now …
Now he just counted down the hours and days until this farce was over and he could go home again.
One week. One miserably long week for a lifetime of no longer having his family nag him.
Let the countdown begin.
He spent the first two days listening to people running past his cave and reading one of his books, occasionally going outside to get some fresh air and wash up in the small river. A Beta girl had halted in front of his cave during the late afternoon of the first day, but one look at him and she'd squeaked out she'd mistaken him for someone else before stumbling away through the bushes.
Mistaken for someone else, yeah right. At least she'd remained polite compared to some of the people during his past attempts. He wasn't one to really care about what other people thought, but being gaped and stared at in horror or morbid fascination every time someone saw him for the first time was starting to do a real number on his self-esteem. There was only so much you could take before it all became too much …
It was inching into evening on the third day when he put a bookmark onto the page he'd been reading and closed the book, stuffing it back into his bag. He should sort through the many pre-packaged meals he'd been forced to take with him, decide what to eat, but he didn't feel like eating just yet.
Instead he rose up from his makeshift bed and left the cave, batting away a couple of annoying insects. He was going to need to lit up some citronella scented candles soon if he wanted any chance of sleeping without being bothered by mosquitos and other insects.
Somewhere in the far distance excited shouting could be heard, people happy to have found each other, but here around his cave, everything was silent. Only the buzzing of insects and some birds fluttering around high in the trees offered some noise.
Absently wiping some sweat away from the back of his neck, he wandered over to the river, the gentle sound of the rippling water drawing him to it. He sank down on his knees and dipped his hands into the refreshing cool water, splashing it onto his face in a bit to cool off. Wiping some droplets away from his eyes, he blinked and unwillingly looked down at the water, stilling when he saw his blurry reflection in the moving water.
What stared back at him was a sight he still had to get used to, even seven years later. It was a sight he didn't like looking at, something he tried to avoid seeing as much as possible. Avoiding the sight of it was easy at his house; no mirrors there to remind him of what he'd lost. His parents and his brother had protested when he'd removed all the mirrors in his house, had tried to convince him to keep them, maybe just cover them up, honey, don't get rid of them!
He'd ignored them all and had got rid of all the mirrors on the same day. They'd been able to save the pictures, but he'd won the battle with the mirrors. Why would he want to keep looking at the reason he had to resort to this event in the first place?
Bitterly he stared down at himself, watching how even the rippling water couldn't hide the deep red, shiny, large spots plastered all across the left side of his face, crawling over his nose before fading out. Parts of his neck and his left arm hadn't escaped unscathed either; his chest bearing faint, red splotches as well. If it had just been his chest and his arm, he could have hidden it with shirts and sweaters. He'd gone as far as growing out his bangs in a weak attempt to cover his face even, but there was no hiding those deep scars. When he closed his eyes, he could still smell the sharpness of the gas liquid splashing over him, hear the quiet hissing of a match lightning up before his entire world erupted into flames.
He'd been lucky to only suffer burns on one side of his body, the doctors had said afterwards, his quick reflexes saving him from suffering burns all over his body. Lucky to still have his eyes, his ears, his nose.
Lucky to still be alive.
What good were quick reflexes when he looked like this? What good was having his eyes still when he was forced to look at the face of a monster every time he was too late to avoid a reflective surface?
What good was being lucky when it meant nobody aside from his immediate family could look at him without being horrified, without feeling disgusted? When he saw everyone in his life falling in love, finding that one perfect person for them, when his own classmates couldn't even look at him for longer than five seconds?
What was even the point of being here? He'd tried four times before and those times had made it more than clear enough to him that nobody would ever be able to look past his scars. They might like his scent, might even appreciate the sound of his voice – as one guy had said before being turned off by his face – but the second they saw how he looked like …
It was a lost cause. He was a lost cause. He should be thankful that at least his closest family could look at him without disgust in their eyes, could even stand to touch him without fearing that somehow his burns were contagious.
Four more days after tonight and then finally the humiliation would be over. Four more days of being ignored and rejected and then he would never have to go through this embarrassment ever again.
His brother-in-law could be as confident as he wanted to be that Sasuke would find someone one day – the Alpha knew better. It had been made abundantly clear to him these past seven years that when it really came down to it, people still preferred to look at a nice face.
It was easy for his parents to say that he would find someone one day, easy for Itachi and Deidara to keep claiming that he just needed to keep looking, that his perfect one would find him one day.
They all had each other. They weren't scarred for life, weren't forced to walk around with the consequences of one person's obsession with them. They didn't encounter looks of disgust, of morbid fascination, of horror every time they went outside. They weren't subjected to looks of pity, to whispers behind their backs.
It was all so easy for them …
Snorting harshly, he slashed his right hand through the water, cutting apart his mirror image, startling some birds into flying away. Then his neck started pricking and he stiffened, turning his head slightly to find out who had found him now, wondered how long it would take before they muttered some lame excuse and stumbled off.
Dusk was rapidly setting in now, the roofs of the trees quickening the process, but even so, he saw the other person as clearly as if it was still the middle of the day.
All he could do was stare, something tugging in his chest, because the other person looked so familiar, but it couldn't be really him, couldn't be the one he'd left behind, because he hadn't seen him since he was ten. It couldn't be him, because why would he be here?
But the boy stumbled forwards, almost tripping over some roots, and his hair was just as blond as he could remember, those eyes the same arresting shade of blue which had snared his attention the very moment he'd locked eyes with him when he'd just been a baby still.
He was taller, slender, dressed in black trousers and a bright orange shirt. The last time he'd seen him, he'd been five years old with a tooth missing and clad in the brightest orange he'd ever seen.
And yet, despite the years, despite how he hadn't been able to see him grow up, Sasuke knew for sure. He knew it with every fibre of his being, was certain of it just as he was certain the sun would rise tomorrow again.
He knew – and all he could do was stare at the boy, watch those blue eyes widen in disbelief at first, then fill with tentative hope, cautious happiness.
"Sasuke?" the boy breathed out, drawing closer, reaching out with one trembling hand. "It's – it's really you, right? Sasuke? U-Uchiha Sasuke?"
Quickly he rose up, making certain to keep his scarred side angled away from the other one, cursing his lack of foresight of not having chosen to wear the light hoodie. He could have used it to hide his face for at least a little while then.
Because he didn't want the other one to be scared away by the sight of him, didn't want to see horror filling those beautiful blue eyes, just as bright and pretty to look at as they had been in the past. Didn't want to hear hurried excuses in the voice he'd been longing to hear for years.
How was this possible, though? How come he was here when he didn't even –
"It's, it's really you, no?" the blond asked nervously, uncertainty creeping up in his voice now that he didn't immediately receive confirmation. He halted, bit down on his lip. "Uchiha Sasuke, my best friend?"
"Naruto?" he questioned incredulously, not daring to believe that he was actually looking at the same Naruto who'd been his best friend since they'd been kids, the one he'd been forced to leave behind when father had to move to another town to start up a company there.
His heart started thudding wildly in his chest and before he could stop himself, reconsider, he took two steps closer and was instantly hit by a sweet citrus and apple scent; a hint of orange blossoms wrapped around it.
Naruto was an Omega.
Instantly Naruto's face lit up and he grinned widely, waving his hands excitedly up and down. "Holy shit, I can't believe it's really you!" he laughed; the sound vibrant and alive. "I mean, I was hoping it was you, because I've been looking for you for a really long time now, but you know, what were the chances? But I didn't want to give up, even if my parents thought I was basically searching for a needle in a haystack, but look! I found you!" he crowed pleased, clapping his hands a couple of times. His grin turned mischievous when he went on, "I can't wait to tell my parents about this! Mum's so going to sulk that she was wrong! Her face is going to be hilarious!"
"How – why are you here?" Sasuke could only ask, completely flabbergasted.
He hadn't seen Naruto in years, hadn't even thought he would get to see him again – yet here he was, no warning whatsoever. He couldn't help but discreetly pinch his thigh; the sharp sting forcing him to acknowledge that this wasn't a dream.
Naruto was really here.
Naruto turned bashful, scratching the bridge of his nose and looking away shyly. "Erm, well, I first went to the town your family moved to when your father decided to work elsewhere, but there they told me you'd moved away after three years. One of your old neighbours still remembered the town you then had moved to and well, basically, I looked up every Uchiha I could find online and visited all those places. When there was an event like this one, I attended those too, because I thought you might be participating in those. I finally eliminated all the possible locations until only this one remained and then I found out that they were holding the event here as well, so I figured I would give this one a shot."
"You just assumed I would be attending an event like this one?" Sasuke asked sceptically. Who would be so insane to go looking through every town just to find one person?
Even though he hadn't seen him in years, hadn't spoken to him for a bit less than that, he wasn't surprised at all by Naruto's way of thinking. Hopping from one town to another just to find his friend – that just screamed Naruto.
The Omega shrugged, his cheeks flushing. "I just figured it was worth a shot, okay?" he defended himself and waved around them. "And hey, clearly I was right, seeing as I just found you!"
"Naruto, do you even realise what the purpose of this event is?" the dark haired man questioned exasperatedly, focusing on their conversation instead of the scent which was steadily growing more and more alluring, thickening the air around them.
The younger man huffed, resting his hands on his hips. "Of course I know that! What, you think I'd be attending this if I didn't know what it was? Man, mum and dad would have a field day with that! Honestly," he wrinkled his nose, "I've been looking for you for years and that's the first thing you want to talk about? Rude!"
Sasuke wanted to smile, wanted to be amused at how endearing Naruto looked when he pouted and huffed, but he started feeling sick, knowing that their time together was dwindling fast. Any moment now Naruto would get a good look at his face, would see how he really looked like – nothing at all anymore like the boy he remembered being his best friend.
He looked nothing like the guy Naruto had probably been dreaming of if he was really aware of the purpose of these events, yet had decided to chase down Sasuke anyway.
Any second now Naruto would see and then it would all be over.
Meanwhile the Omega was looking around curiously, rocking back and forth lightly on his heels. "So, erm, where are you staying exactly?" He was back to being shy again, as if the situation was just really hitting him now, like he'd just started to realise what him having found Sasuke implied.
They would spend the remainder of the week together – if Naruto wasn't about to run away like all the others had done.
Fear settled like a lump in his throat and he swallowed heavily; the prickling heat of his skin having nothing to do with his scars aching.
The moment of truth.
He stepped forwards, turning his head to face Naruto completely now, and replied, praying the tremor wasn't audible to anyone but him, "I've been staying in that cave there, right behind you. You see where the branches are hanging really low?"
The look of puzzlement on Naruto's face cleared up the second he figured out just where exactly the cave was hidden and he smiled, partly nervous, partly excited. "Okay, so, mind if we go inside? I've been walking around for basically three days now and my feet are killing me!"
"Sure, let's go inside," Sasuke muttered and closed the remaining distance between them, bracing himself for however Naruto would react now that he would finally see who exactly he'd been tracking down all this time.
"Great!" Naruto said cheerfully, seemingly not having looked at Sasuke's face yet given his non-reaction, but as he turned around, he managed to trip over a rather large root and only Sasuke grabbing his arm hastily prevented him from eating dirt.
"Are you blind?" Sasuke barked; his fear of the Omega's reaction making his temper flare up. "Didn't you see that root?"
"Sorry!" Naruto laughed nervously, rubbing over the back of his head. "I lost my glasses when I tripped over some rocks yesterday. I'm surprised I made it here without breaking a leg."
Glasses? Sasuke froze, staring at the blond man. Blue eyes gazed back at him, but they were wandering all across his face, never really focusing on one spot for more than a couple of seconds.
"You can't see without your glasses?"
Naruto wrinkled his nose, looking a tad chagrined. "Not really," he admitted begrudgingly. "I can see shapes well enough to not walk into stuff constantly, but without my glasses I can't see any sort of detail. Not even with you standing so close now." He gestured between them, appearing quite relaxed for someone who was essentially blind.
"How did you find me then?" Sasuke asked dumbfounded, belatedly releasing Naruto's arm.
The younger man coloured a deep red. "Oh, erm, I – I followed your scent," he admitted almost inaudibly, ducking his head.
Sasuke could only stare at him, shocked by the admission. Naruto had remembered his scent well enough throughout all these years that he was able to follow it even now?
"So, erm, are we going inside?" Naruto asked, hunching his shoulders slightly. "I hope you don't have too many stuff lying around in there, don't want to bash my head in now that I finally found you." He laughed weakly.
Naruto couldn't see how he looked like.
That realisation shook him to the core. Even standing this close, Naruto was unaware of the burn scars on Sasuke's face, was completely oblivious to how his friend looked like now. He wasn't shying away in disgust or horror, because he couldn't see. Without his glasses, Naruto didn't know how ugly Sasuke had become. He would spend the rest of the week with Sasuke, unaware that the guy he'd been chasing down didn't look at all anymore like how he remembered him.
Sasuke would be able to spend four whole days with Naruto without having to fear witnessing him recoil in disgust, without having to worry he would meet pity or horror in those bright blue eyes.
Four days before reality would smack him full in the face.
Would he be able to handle this? Spending four days with Naruto, catching up on all the years they'd missed, knowing what Naruto wanted from him – losing it all again once Naruto had got his glasses back?
Once Naruto could see him, would realise what kind of person he'd been searching for – he'd leave. Sasuke was certain of that. They all did the second they saw who they were dealing with.
He desperately wanted to believe that Naruto was different, that this time everything would be different, but – he'd been disappointed one too many times to be able to believe it, to be able to trust that Naruto wouldn't reject him the second he gained his vision back.
It would be better if he kept him at a distance, if he didn't get close to the other man in the four days they had left. It would hurt a lot less that way.
Yet, despite knowing better, despite knowing full well that he would end up hurt all over again, he reached out and encircled Naruto's left wrist with his fingers; a light shock running through the both of them at the light touch.
Sasuke swallowed and looked away, tugging at Naruto's wrist gently, trying not to focus on how smooth and soft his skin felt like.
"I keep all my stuff in my bag," he replied finally and started steering the Omega to the cave, keeping an eye out for any stray rock or root that might have the blond tripping over it again. "The only thing I've got lying around is the mattress."
"Still so neat, just like when we were kids," Naruto teased him, following him without a single care in the world.
Sasuke said nothing, engraving the feeling of Naruto's warm hand resting against his in his memory.
Four days. That would have to be enough.
"I'm really happy you didn't forget me," Naruto murmured underneath the cover of the night a couple of hours later.
They were both lying on the mattress, a thin blanket covering them until their waists. A torch was put next to the makeshift bed, casting a beam on the wall behind them, breaking apart the darkness which had fully descended over them around two hours ago.
Sasuke turned his head to look at him. "Of course I didn't forget you. You're hard to forget," he mumbled.
That had Naruto smiling pleased and he shuffled a bit closer to him. Silence reigned for a little while as they listened to an owl hooting somewhere close by.
"I still got your necklace," Naruto suddenly said, slipping something from underneath his shirt.
The pendant – a red and white fan – caught the faint light of the torch when he dangled it in the air and the sight of it had Sasuke's breath hitching, his fingers automatically reaching out to grasp it gently. The metal felt warm against his skin, conserving Naruto's body heat, and he rubbed his thumb slowly across the red colour.
"You kept it," he said astonished, unable to keep the wonder out of his voice.
He could remember clear as day how he'd pulled the necklace from around his neck and had handed it over to the blond, promising him solemnly the pendant was proof he would return to him.
"Of course I kept it," Naruto retorted lightly, his finger tracing along the thin, metal chain. "You asked me to take care of it, so I did."
Guilt rose up, the pendant giving off an accusing air all of a sudden. "I'm sorry I broke my promise," he said, the edges of the fan cutting into his palm when he tightened his grip around it.
He felt a twitch running through the Omega's body. "You didn't," Naruto said surprised, rolling carefully onto his side. "You came back the next year, remember?"
"Yeah, but …" It wasn't what he had meant when he had made that promise right before leaving him behind.
"Hey." Fingers wrapped around his hand, stilling him. "It doesn't matter, okay? We found each other again, so it's all good."
"Yeah …" He lowered the pendant, letting it slide down Naruto's chest. He watched it settle down between them on the mattress; the chain rising gently with every breath the blond man took. "I'm sorry I didn't contact you for so long." The words came out barely audible, drenched with regret and self-loathing nonetheless.
Naruto just shrugged, almost laconically so. "Life happens," he said simply. "And like I said, we're here now, aren't we? That's all that matters."
"I guess so," Sasuke agreed reluctantly; guilt heavy like a rock in the pit of his stomach.
"So what have you been up to in the meantime? How's Itachi? Did he find someone already? How's your mum and dad? Is your dad still working at the company?" Naruto's rapidly fired questions were halted when he abruptly yawned loudly, blinking dazedly in the light of the torch.
Despite everything, Sasuke smiled amused. "Why don't we get some sleep first and tomorrow I'll answer all your questions?"
Naruto wrinkled his nose, but a second yawn made the decision for him; blue eyes drooping. "Yeah, all right, sleep first," he acquiesced; eyes almost completely shut already.
Sasuke stretched out his hand next to the mattress, groping for the torch to put out the light. Right when he clicked on the button, drowning the cave in complete darkness, Naruto rested his forehead against his arm and a hand came to lie on Sasuke's stomach.
The Alpha stilled, his breathing turning shallow at the unexpected touch, the searing heat suddenly pressed up to the full length of his body.
"Good night, Sasuke," Naruto whispered drowsily.
Sasuke swallowed and stared up unseeingly at the dark ceiling. "Yeah, good night."
"Man, I can't wait to meet Itachi's husband," Naruto grinned, leaning back on his hands; his left foot rocking from side to side. "He sounds like a lot of fun!"
Sasuke snorted, dumping their empty cups of noodles in the small garbage bag before pushing the bag to the furthest corner of the cave. "If blowing up shit is your definition of fun," he said derisively.
In Deidara's defence, he was a chemistry teacher, so blowing up things w as sometimes inevitable if a formula ended up being wrong.
"It's unexpected and therefore fun," Naruto claimed; his grin widening.
It was around midday and they were lounging on the mattress, having just finished lunch. Sasuke had spent the past hour talking about his family, catching Naruto up to speed with what had been happening during the years they hadn't seen or spoken to each other. The Omega had been rather surprised to hear that Sasuke had chosen to study psychology instead of business like his brother. Sasuke had never been that terribly interested in the business world, though, and while his father had been disappointed to hear that, he was in full support of Sasuke getting his Master's degree in psychology.
"What about you? What have you been up to?" Sasuke questioned curiously, determined to keep things light between them.
Three and a half days left …
The blond man straightened up and rubbed the back of his neck. "Ah, trying to get a teaching degree now," he answered lightly. "Thinking of teaching primary school kids; I think they're the most fun to teach because they haven't turned into arseholes yet like secondary school tends to be filled with." He rolled his eyes.
"And your teachers are okay with you being here now?" Sasuke inquired dubiously. As a Master's student he had bit more leeway with taking a week off from his studies; especially with how much he usually was ahead of his studies.
Naruto rolled his shoulders. "Some of them have to attend conferences throughout this week, so some classes were cancelled either way," he explained. "And the others were okay with me not attending their classes as long as I'm caught up by the time I go back. My friend's taking notes for me instead."
"That's nice of your friend," Sasuke murmured. Even though he had promised himself he would keep things between them as lightly as possible, he couldn't help but ask, "Why did you even decide to attend this event?"
He held up his hand, clucking his tongue when Naruto opened his mouth, presumably to give the same answer as last night. "I know you said you know what this event is meant for – that's why I'm asking. You haven't seen me in years – why attend this event then to search for me? Why not wait until the event was over to track me down?"
For some reason Naruto started blushing and he looked away. How much he could see without his glasses, though, was unknown.
"I've known from a pretty early age that you're special to me," he finally admitted after a long pause. He refused to look at the dark haired man, flicking his gaze to the ground instead, tracing meaningless shapes through the dirt. "That never changed, no matter how many years went by. And then when I turned thirteen and I discovered I'm an Omega, you – you're the one I thought – think about when I have my heat." That particular confession was almost too soft to be heard; the blush on Naruto's face turning into a flaming red now.
Sasuke did hear the confession, though, and it made him swallow, heat pricking his skin as he realised just in what kind of context Naruto had been thinking about him. "You've no idea how I look like," he pointed out quietly, his voice rough. Unconsciously his fingers touched the largest burn on his cheek. "So why would you - "
"What does it matter?" Naruto asked, frowning, and crossed his arms, turning his head to gaze in Sasuke's general direction. "I don't care how you look like. I know what I feel, what I've been feeling for all these years, and looks have got shit to do with that."
"You were five when you last saw me, Naruto. How could you be so sure that I'm - "
"Because I'm sure," the Omega retorted stubbornly; a sharp edge to his voice. "I've been sure of it, of you, the moment I realised why I kept missing you, why I kept imagining it's you with me when I have my heats. Sure, without my glasses on, I still don't really know how you actually look now, but I don't care."
Sasuke tried again, as much to protect himself as to protect the blond. "Have you tried da-"
"I tried finding other people interesting when I just started getting my heats," Naruto interrupted him bluntly. "And while there were definitely hot people at my school, I could think of nobody else but you. I might be five years younger than you, but that doesn't mean I don't know what I want, Sasuke," he said sharply. "I know what I got myself into when I went looking for you in this event; I'm not stupid. I'm perfectly aware what this event is meant for and I wish you would stop trying to find reasons why this wouldn't work between us."
Sasuke thought his messed up face and Naruto's temporary unawareness of it was a pretty good reason to stop this thing between them before it could grow deeper.
"Look, do you like me?" Naruto asked, biting down on his lower lip; insecurity flashing across his face. "Or do you think you can like me, you know, romantically if we spend more time together? Because well, if you're really not interested and this is your way of trying to tell me, I want you to be just upfront about it, you know? I'm not that good at picking up hints," his cheeks coloured a ruddy red now, "so if me having feelings for you is bothering you, if me being here is annoying you, I want you to tell me that."
"You're not bothering me," Sasuke said, gaze falling down to his interlocked hands. "I just don't want you to think that you don't have other options."
Naruto snorted and shuffled closer to him. "You don't have to worry about that; you won't have much competition," he said wryly, laughing self-deprecatingly. "I'm not really that popular to be honest."
"I don't see why," Sasuke said honestly, watching Naruto flush anew with the compliment; blue eyes sparkling both pleased and shy.
With his bright golden blond hair, his sparkling blue eyes and his slender, well built form, Sasuke had a hard time believing nobody else was interested in the beautiful Omega. Especially with how alluring he smelt. If anything, he firmly believed he would be the one chasing off future suitors for the blond man – if Naruto still chose to stay with him after he got his glasses back.
"What about you?" Naruto asked, breaking through his dark thoughts before he could lose himself in them. "Any ex-partners that might be pissed off if they see me with you?" His smile was both teasing and wry; something darker lurking in the depths of his eyes.
Sasuke snorted. "Nobody," he said curtly.
Not that he had ever been interested in someone – bar Naruto now – but his face didn't exactly make it easy either to find someone.
Blond eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Nobody at all?" Naruto asked sceptically.
Sasuke shook his head. "Nobody at all. Never been interested in someone," he replied vaguely.
"Until now?" Naruto asked teasingly, but hope coated his words heavily.
"Until now," Sasuke admitted; the answer leaving him against his will.
Naruto's sweet smile made up for the pain he would undoubtedly be feeling once the younger man had his glasses back.
"Have you ever thought about soulmates?"
It was the last night before they would return to the entrance of the forest where family and friends would be waiting, eager to find out whether their loved ones had found a partner or not.
They had spent the last couple of days bringing up old memories and filling in each other about what they had missed out on during the years they had lost contact. In spite of the underlying sense of doom he couldn't shake off, Sasuke had enjoyed the time spent together with the blond.
Even though they hadn't seen or spoken to each other in years, there hadn't been any moments of awkwardness aside from the first day. It was as if there had never been any distance between them at all and the ease of it all, the comfortableness between them, was actually a bit frightening – because he knew that after tonight, nothing would be the same between them again. The second Naruto put on his glasses … Everything would be over.
He wanted to berate himself for being so stupid as to get comfortable with Naruto, knowing full well how it all would end, but even though he had had the chance to send the blond man packing, he'd never grasped that chance. Not only because it would be beyond rude to send someone who was vision challenged through the forest with its treacherous underground, but also because he just couldn't convince himself to give up on the Omega.
Even when everything would go to shit tomorrow, at least he would have had these four days with Naruto.
Naruto's question now, however, came rather out of the blue.
"Soulmates?" he repeated bemused, turning his head to stare at the other man. "Like in a romantic sense?"
Night had just fallen and they were lying on the mattress, close next to each other underneath the light blanket. The torch provided light and whenever silence fell between them, they could hear the soft sound of rain. The soothing noise of the rain and the warm light of the torch gave the cave a homey feeling.
Naruto nodded, curiosity alight in his blue eyes. "Yeah, you believe in them?"
Mulling over the question, Sasuke turned his head again to stare at the dark ceiling. "Mother used to say that she believed we're soulmates," he murmured and felt the other one grow still. "The first time we met, you were still in the womb. I was in the store with mother when I suddenly saw a woman with red hair walking past the aisle. I went after her, even though I normally wouldn't leave mother alone in the store. She told me how she would name you and I remember thinking it was a nice name."
Next to him Naruto seemed to be holding his breath, so quiet he'd become.
"Some months after that I was in the park with my brother when I suddenly saw a baby crawl towards us," he huffed amused, shaking his head. "I remember grabbing you and putting you in my lap. I asked Itachi whether we could keep you because you seemed like a lot more fun than my cousin, but he told me we couldn't."
"I remember that story; mum told it often – usually when I'd got distracted and left her to look at something," Naruto said sheepishly. "She'd always say I couldn't count on a nice boy to be there to take care of me while she looked for me."
"I never was really interested in other kids; they were far too annoying," Sasuke muttered, lost in his memories. "Pretty sure mother and father were silently despairing that I would never find someone – then I found you in the park and it just clicked. You were just a baby, but I remember thinking that you weren't annoying at all, that for a baby you were pretty cute. And then despite the five year difference, we became best friends. Some in my family didn't get why I would want to be friends with someone who's five years younger than me, but …"
He breathed out slowly and shrugged. "I never cared about their opinion. All I cared about what that I felt good when I was near you, at ease even, like you were the last piece I didn't even realise I was missing. Even when we were still kids, I felt a pull between us; something that told me I had found the right person."
He rolled onto his side and caught wide blue eyes. "So I guess in that sense, yeah, I do believe in soulmates," he murmured.
In the years after the accident, though, it had become far easier to suppress all thoughts ab-…
Naruto surged forwards and Sasuke's brain went completely offline when a pair of slightly chapped lips found his; a clammy hand sliding over his shoulder to cup the back of his neck.
And even though a voice was screaming at him in the back of his mind, telling him to put a stop to this immediately, he started kissing him back, swallowing Naruto's relieved moan when he swept his tongue across a plush lower lip and the mouth against his parted slightly.
The kiss started out hesitatingly, but gradually grew in intensity; his arm resting around Naruto's waist, keeping his warm body pressed against his. The slight chill in the air was chased away by warm kisses and an even warmer touch when Naruto rolled on top of him, basically draping himself over his body.
Sasuke was more than fine with that; their lips parting for just a couple of seconds to breathe before they found each other again. His hands came to rest across Naruto's back almost automatically, their legs tangled together; the sheet twisted awkwardly between them.
His mind was heady with the enticing scent of the Omega on top of him; the smell intensifying when their kisses grew deeper, bolder. He'd never been drunk before in his life and he wondered stupidly whether it was possible to get drunk off one's scent, or even from kisses.
He'd never kissed anyone else before Naruto and he decided right there and then that he didn't want to kiss anyone else either for the rest of his life. Naruto's mouth moulded perfectly against his, their bodies fitting together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, like they were made for each other.
Perhaps soulmates did exist after all.
Only when a hand slipped between their bodies and started fumbling with the waistband of his shorts did his brain come back online. A shock running through him, he pulled back immediately and grabbed Naruto's hand, stopping him.
Blue eyes shot open and stared down at him dazed; pupils visibly dilated even in the small light of the torch and a blush staining cheeks. "Wha-"
"Not here," Sasuke brought out, pushing Naruto gently off him. "Here's not a good place."
"Oh." Naruto audibly swallowed, deflating slightly as his cheeks reddened even more. "Sorry, got a bit carried away, I guess." He laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck and looking away, clearly embarrassed.
"Hey, it's fine; not like I didn't get carried away either," Sasuke said soothingly, tugging softly at his wrist. "I just think that a cave of all places isn't really the perfect one for our first time."
There were several other reasons why they were better off not having sex now, but the cave one was the most obvious one and the only one that wouldn't open a can of worms and send them spiralling into a conversation Sasuke wasn't ready to have yet.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," Naruto muttered and cleared his throat, still having his face turned away from the Alpha.
The dark haired man sighed softly and placed his hands on Naruto's shoulders, bearing down on them until the Omega laid down gingerly again.
"Let's catch some sleep, okay? We've got a long trek ahead of us tomorrow," he murmured, adjusting the thin sheet so it covered the both of them properly.
"True. I'm warning you now: I'll probably be clinging on to you the whole time to make sure I don't trip. It's a miracle I didn't bash my head in after I lost my glasses," Naruto grumbled, shuffling closer to him. He slung his arm around Sasuke's waist, just like he'd done the previous nights, and pressed his forehead against the Alpha's shoulder.
"I think I'll be able to endure the handholding," Sasuke said dryly, feeling around the cave floor for the torch. His fingertips brushed against a rounded edge and he grasped at it, rolling the torch towards him.
One click on the button and the light vanished with a quiet 'click'.
"We're still on for that date at the park?" Naruto whispered; his thumb rubbing circles in Sasuke's side.
"Yeah, we're still doing that, though you got the order wrong: most people go on a date first before they kiss."
Naruto snickered, kissing his cheek quickly. "That's called being spontaneous. Not my fault you're so kissable," he retorted cheekily.
Sasuke just grunted, the phantom ache in his cheek making him bite down on his tongue.
"Good night, Sasuke," Naruto whispered, his nose digging into Sasuke's shoulder. "I can't wait to get out of here and see you properly finally."
"Yeah," Sasuke swallowed; dark eyes staring unseeingly at the ceiling. "Me neither."
The twin looks of utter shock on Itachi's and Deidara's faces when he and Naruto left the forest together would be comical if Sasuke didn't feel like he was going to throw up any second now.
"Holy shit, you actually found someone, un," Deidara gaped stunned.
"I thought you said this year would be my year?" Sasuke raised an eyebrow; his right hand grasping the bag – significantly emptier now than it had been when he set foot inside the forest a week ago – tightly.
His other one was clasped around Naruto's; the blond's grip warm and firm around his.
"Well, yeah, but given your general attitude, I didn't actually think - "
"Naruto-kun, is that you?" Itachi questioned incredulously; his dark eyes widening a notch.
Deidara glanced between them. "You know him, un?"
Naruto waved awkwardly and smiled somewhat nervously. "Hey, Itachi-nii-san, long time no see, huh?"
"How did you end up here?"
"Kind of looked up every place that had an Uchiha listed and visited them all until I found Sasuke," Naruto answered, managing to look both bashful and ridiculously proud at the same time.
"Naruto …" Deidara squinted at the younger blond. "Wait, you aren't by any chance the famous Naruto-kun, who's Sasuke's best friend since diapers, un?"
"Ooooh, they told you about me?" Naruto asked excitedly, rocking back and forth on his heels. "That's so sweet!" He jerked his thumb at his chest. "But yep, that's me, his best friend!"
"To think you found each other here, un," Deidara said amazed. "Fate must have something to do with it, for sure!"
"That and my stubbornness," Naruto grinned and winked, swinging his and Sasuke's hands back and forth.
"Wait until mother and father see you again; they're going to be so happy," Itachi smiled.
Ignoring the meaningful look of his brother, Sasuke said brusquely, "Yeah, that happy meeting is going to have to wait a bit."
"How so? Oh, you're going on a date now, un?" Deidara asked excitedly, grinning widely. He looked ready to start doing some kind of weird victory dance any second now.
"No," Sasuke started tugging Naruto along with him to the parking where his car would be waiting still, "I'm taking him into the town first."
Looking Itachi dead in his eyes, he replied flatly, "Because Naruto's basically blind without his glasses now."
All at once realisation dawned in Itachi's eyes. "You can't see anything at all, Naruto-kun?" he asked apprehensively.
Next to him Deidara also realised the implication and he turned away to hide his grimace.
Why he did that, Sasuke didn't understand. After all, if Naruto was completely oblivious to the fact that he was currently holding hands with someone whose face was fucked up beyond repair, he definitely wouldn't see facial expressions from five feet away.
"No," Naruto said, wrinkling his nose and scratching the back of his head. "Everything's been blurry as shit ever since I lost my glasses in the forest. Sucks that we didn't come across them because then I would have been able to see Sasuke's face sooner. Now I have to wait until we're at the optician," he pouted, looking generally put out by that fact. "Man, my luck sucks: I finally found this handsome guy again and now I'm stuck waiting until I have new glasses to actually see him!"
"Right, well, we'll leave you to your glasses shopping then," Itachi murmured, grabbing Deidara's hand. "You can meet our parents afterwards, Naruto-kun."
"Oh definitely! I can't wait to see Mikoto-ba-san and Fugaku-ji-san again!" Naruto grinned.
"Let's get you new glasses before you walk into a pole," Sasuke muttered, turning away from the other couple.
"We'll see you later, Sasuke, Naruto-kun!" Itachi called out.
Sasuke pointedly ignored the heavy stare he could feel aimed at the back of his head.
"I just need to grab something quickly, you go on. I'll be right behind you," he reassured the blond man, who looked surprised but nodded, smiling at him before he opened the door of the optician's store.
Sasuke went back to his car, slumping down in the driver's seat. He rubbed his hands over his face, scowling at them when he lowered them again and saw them trembling.
Naruto was with the optician now and soon he would get a new pair of glasses. Ones that would allow him to properly see the world again – and by extent Sasuke.
It suddenly became harder for him to breathe in deeply and he pressed his eyes shut, trying not to pay attention to how loud his breathing was in the car. The moment Naruto would look at him – it would be all over, he knew it. He'd been lucky so far that Naruto had essentially been blind the past week, his vision too weak to be able to make out the scarred side of Sasuke's face.
His luck was quickly running out now. The second Naruto would set foot outside the store again, he would want to look at Sasuke and when he saw his face …
"Fuck," he whispered, swallowing down the irritating lump in his throat.
It quickly returned, though, and there was the hot sting of tears pressing against the back of his eyes as he realised with a heavy heart that he was about to lose Naruto again. There was no way to hide the mess his face had become and while he'd learnt to ignore the stares of other people, had learnt not to pay their reactions any mind, Naruto's reaction would have the power to break him.
He'd never really cared what other people thought of him, but the thought of Naruto flinching away from him, of hearing him trying to come up with excuses as to why they couldn't be together anymore …
He couldn't handle that thought.
He couldn't stand waiting here, feeling like he was about to be led to the gallows. Couldn't stand the thought of seeing disgust or pity reflected in beautiful, blue eyes.
His trembling fingers made him mess up selecting the right number three times before he forced them to steady enough to choose the right contact. The sound of his heartbeat loud in his ears, he kept his eyes trained at the store. If he stared really hard, he thought he could make out the form of Naruto talking to someone else and gesturing to his eyes.
"Sasuke? You two already finished?" Itachi inquired curiously.
"I can't do this, nii-san," he brought out, his mouth too dry, the lump in his throat too big. "I – I need to leave now. I can't do this anymore."
"Wait, Sasuke, what do you mean?" Itachi asked sharply.
"I've got to go – you or Deidara need to pick him up, I can't see him anymore."
"Sasuke, no, don't do this to yourself. Has he seen you?"
"No, but he will soon and I'm not going to wait for his reaction."
"Come on, he won't react ba-"
"I want you to pick him up," Sasuke interrupted him, starting the motor of his car. "I – I can't do this, Itachi, I really can't."
"Okay, okay, look, I can pick him up for now, but then you - "
"No, this is it," Sasuke snapped, pushing back the panic threatening to overtake him. He couldn't start panicking now, not when he needed to leave. He could have a fucking breakdown later, but now he needed to get the hell out of here.
"I'm done. I'm not doing this anymore. Take him home, I can't do it!"
"And what the hell am I supposed to tell him then when he's wondering why you aren't there anymore?" Itachi snapped frustratedly.
"I don't know! You figure it out, it's your fucking fault I'm in this mess in the first place!" Sasuke snarled. "You told me to attend that fucking travesty and I did! And now I'm done! And if you fucking dare to tell him what happened, I'm never going to talk to you again, you hear me?!"
He hung up the phone before Itachi could start placating him, which was usually the next step when they had rows about this subject.
He took one last look at the store, ignored – like so many fucking things he ignored in his life, because that made it all easier to bear, or so he liked to lie to himself the entire bloody time – the ache in his chest and took off.
Leaving before Naruto could leave him.
He only picked up the phone because Itachi wouldn't stop calling him. Apparently ignoring him for two whole days didn't get the message across.
"What," he said flatly, staring down unseeingly at the textbook in front of him. Maybe he should add that paragraph to the footnotes after all, just to be safe.
"You can't keep ignoring him."
Sasuke ignored the reproach. "What did you tell him?"
"That you were called up by one of your classmates because there was a problem in your group projects," Itachi replied; a hint of irritation colouring his voice. "He's going to eventually start wondering when you'll get back to him, though. What are you going to tell him? Better yet, when are you finally going to contact him?"
"Nothing and never," Sasuke replied icily calm. "I meant what I said, Itachi: I'm not doing this."
"I get being afraid," Itachi said tersely, "but you should know that out of everyone on this planet, you can trust Naruto. He's not going to react badly when seeing you; he's not that shallow."
"That's funny – wasn't that the same thing you told me when your husband tried to set me up with a girl from his work?" Sasuke reminded him poisonously sweet. "What was it you told me again? Ah yes: 'She's not going to react badly; she's not shallow and she knows you were attacked.' Now, how did that end again?"
Silence on the other end of the line.
"Your memory failing you already, nii-san?" Sasuke asked mockingly. "I'll help you: it ended with her being unable to look at me for even five seconds and she left after an hour, throwing some vague excuse about remembering her stove still being on. I mean, I guess you were right in a sense: she toughed it out for a whole hour before her disgust became too strong."
"Sasuke …" Itachi sighed wearily. "Just give him a chance, please."
"No." Sasuke swallowed, his hand tightening around his phone. "He's my best friend, Itachi. I don't want to see him look at me like everyone else does."
"You're not even giving him a chance, Sasuke. He's always been different from the rest – wasn't that why you were drawn to him?"
He thought about the sensation of rightness every time he'd been near the blond. He thought about how it had felt as if he'd known Naruto forever, even longer than they were alive, stupid as it was to think that.
He thought about the concept of soulmates and how it seemed to fit them to a T, even when he wasn't normally one for romantic bullshit.
He thought about how Naruto had found him again after all those years, never having given up on him. He remembered their heated kisses, the way the Omega's body had fitted perfectly against his, like they were made for each other.
He thought about all that and then shook his head. "No, Itachi. I can't. Not with him."
Because Naruto was the only one who could destroy him with just a single glance, even after so many years.
And he wasn't ready to give him that power.
When someone knocked on his door three days later, he threw his pen down in frustration, gritting his teeth together before standing up and marching to the door. So god help his brother if he didn't stop bothering him right this instant!
"What the fuck do you want?" he snapped when he flung the door open –
Right before getting a glimpse of short, bright blond hair. Heart thudding painfully in his chest, he immediately went to shut the door again, cursing when a foot shot out to prevent him from doing so.
The foot wedged between the door and the frame didn't convince him to stop pushing against it, though.
"Go the fuck away, Naruto," he snapped roughly, nausea filling him like a lead block in his stomach.
How the hell had Naruto found him here?
"Holy hell, will you stop massacring my foot!" Naruto yelped, a hand smacking down against the door at the other side. "You're going to break it at this point!"
"Well, here's a thought: take your foot away!" Sasuke hissed, using his shoulder to keep the door shut as much as possible.
"Not before we talk!" Naruto said stubbornly.
"There's nothing to talk about!"
"Yes, there is! What about the fact that you fucking blew me off for nothing?"
"It wasn't nothing, Naruto!" Sasuke snarled pissed off – whether at himself or at Naruto, he wasn't sure yet.
All he knew was that he was pissed off and he definitely couldn't let Naruto see his face.
"Yes, it is!"
"You know nothing!"
"I know about the attack!"
Sasuke froze, staring unseeingly at the dark orange sneaker stuck between the door and the wall. "What did you say?" he asked quietly, blood rushing loudly in his ears.
He couldn't have …
"Look, just – don't get mad at your brother, okay?" Naruto said nervously; all the bravado gone out of his voice, replaced by worry. "I didn't give him much choice: I told him he could either tell me your address and tell me what the deal was or I would ask one of my friends to hack into the university system to find out where you live."
Black eyes narrowed. "You're bluffing."
"I'm not," Naruto said and sighed. "My other best friend is really good at hacking into systems. He's studying computer sciences officially, but he's been doing that kind of thing for a couple of years now. It would have been easy for him to find out where you live if I asked him to look it up for me."
"Why the fuck are you here, Naruto?" Sasuke asked blankly.
"To talk," was the simply answer.
"This should be good," he muttered darkly to himself. Still keeping his weight against the door, he asked, "Fine, what did they tell you?"
They couldn't have told him that much if he'd decided to still come over here.
"That when you were younger, a girl got really obsessed with you," Naruto answered quietly. The Alpha stilled. "And that you tried to be nice about rejecting her at first until she kept pestering you and you basically told her to go take a hike. She waited for you one evening when you were late leaving school and doused you with some kind of flammable liquid before setting you both on fire. She died from her wounds, but you survived."
"They really told you everything, huh?" Sasuke said bitterly.
That showed him how much he could trust his older brother, the bastard.
"It's fine, Sasuke," Naruto said soothingly. "I don't care how - "
"Oh please, how can you say you don't care when you don't even know how I look like?" Sasuke sneered. "Spare me that crap, I've heard that line too many times by now!"
"Hey dickhead!" Naruto snapped. "I'm saying I don't care because I fucking like you, okay? I've fucking liked you since I could remember, which I'm sure I was pretty fucking clear about back in the forest! I don't care because I'm not some shallow arsehole who only cares about looks!"
"That's what you're saying now, but when you - "
"Will you give me some bloody credit here?" Naruto hissed angrily. "All those times I got myself through my heats – how do you think I did that? It wasn't by imagining your face because I didn't even know how you looked like! I got off because I was imagining it was you, just you! The thought of being in your arms, of lying close to you, that's what got me through those heats, not some pretty face I imagined! I don't fucking care how you look like, Sasuke, I'm just happy to be with you! You, you fucking dick, not your pretty face!"
"Naruto, I can't, listen - "
"And you want to know another reason why I don't care?" Naruto continued, ignoring him. "I don't care because I would be a pretty huge hypocrite if I did."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Sasuke asked confused.
"Look, if I take off my glasses, will you open the door?" Naruto said; all the fight gone from his voice. "You know I can't see shit without them and I need to show you something to make you believe me."
"Fine," Sasuke accepted warily after a moment.
A couple of seconds later a folded pair of glasses appeared in the crack between the door and the frame. After a couple of seconds of hesitation, Sasuke accepted the glasses and opened the door slowly.
Naruto stood in front of him, dressed in a light grey sweatshirt, an orange hoodie thrown over it and a pair of faded blue jeans. He stood rather uncomfortably, fidgeting with the pockets of his hoodie.
"All right so, when I was eleven there was this gang of stupid children pulling pranks and generally being a nuisance," he started and licked his lips. "The pranks got worse after a while, going as far as destroying property. One evening I was helping out my dad in the bakery when we heard loud noises at the front. When we went to take a look, we saw a couple of those kids running past our bakery."
Taking a deep breath, he continued, his voice wavering slightly, "They threw rocks and fireworks right through the window. I was closest to the window and I got cut pretty badly by the flying glass."
His hands visibly shook when he took out a handkerchief from his pocket. He wetted it with his tongue before he started wiping at his cheeks.
Dumbfounded Sasuke could only stare as visible, thick white lines – three on each cheek – appeared on Naruto's face as some kind of crème was wiped away by the handkerchief.
"Dad took me to the hospital and I had to get several stitches as you can see," Naruto weakly waved at his face; his eyes downcast and his face reddening, "I didn't mind them at first, because while it sucked having them, they looked kind of cool at the same time, you know? Like my mum said, they made me look like a fox and foxes are cool, so who doesn't want to look like them?"
His next inhale was shuddery and he wiped his sleeve over his nose. "But then some kids in my class started bullying me, calling me names, telling me I looked like a freak, that I looked like I was hit by the ugly monster, things like that."
He looked away. "I tried ignoring them, but it got a bit too much eventually, you know? And by the time I had to start at my new school, I'd decided I was done with being the laughing stock, the ugly one in the class and I decided to cover up my face with mum's make-up. She didn't like that, thought I should be proud of how I looked but … I didn't get laughed at again once I started covering my face."
Slowly he turned to look at Sasuke again, his gaze unfocused but somehow still finding black eyes. "So this is why I would be a hypocrite if I cared about your looks – and I guess I'm kind of being a hypocrite anyways, considering I was still covering up my face even when going to see you now."
He spread out his arms and took a deep breath. "So, am I too ugly for you now?"
"Of course you aren't ugly!" Sasuke said strongly, the shock at seeing those scars on Naruto's face quickly ebbing away. "Naruto, those are just scars, they don't make you look ugly at all."
Naruto smiled weakly. "So if you can say I don't look ugly – why do you think I won't say the same of you? They're just scars after all, right?"
"Naruto, I just don't want …"
"I've been looking for you for years now, Sasuke. I want to start looking at you now." He took a step closer. "Please?"
Damn it all to hell.
His hand trembled when he slowly reached out to give the glasses back. His heart went into overdrive when tanned hands slipped the glasses back into place, covering bright blue eyes.
Then those blue orbs blinked and looked at him and pale pink lips parted in surprise.
"Oh," Naruto breathed out and Sasuke felt his heart sink.
Then Naruto closed the distance between them and then there were hands covering his cheeks, covering the scars, and blue eyes gazed at him tenderly.
"Hey there, you're as pretty as I imagined," Naruto smiled.
"I thought you said you didn't imagine my looks?" Sasuke managed to bring out, feeling like he was caught in some kind of haze.
Naruto wasn't turning away from him. He wasn't staring at him in disgust or with pity. He wasn't trying to come up with some lame excuse.
He was here, holding Sasuke.
Naruto laughed, the sound bright and light. "Oops, kind of lied there," he said teasingly. "I was looking for you."
Sasuke's arms closed around a lithe waist, pressing their bodies tightly together. "You found me," he whispered.
"Yeah, I did," Naruto smiled and then they both simultaneously closed the remaining distance between them to kiss.
The necklace, the symbol of a promise made long ago, rested right between them.
They were finally together once more – and this time neither one of them would leave.